On August 23, 1950, long-time Point Roberts residents Ernie and Lola Loreen began their life together. Seventy years of marriage is a remarkable milestone, but remarkable is nothing new for this couple.
There are candles on the large oak dining table in their home and as I arrive, Ernie lights them. “He does this breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Lola explains. “And every time we sit down at this table with someone.” “The light represents the Divine Presence,” Ernie adds. To me, it also represents the unfailing hospitality that has been a hallmark of their marriage.
What is the glue? Lola puts it simply, “We have been very lucky finding a partner with similar interests and being determined never to give up.” Ernie interjects with, “It’s a lot of give and take, especially for you, Lola.” She smiles and says, “And we had a lot of help from family and friends. People have always responded to us with kindness.”
I suspect this kindness is a reflection of their own. And the remarkable bond between Ernie and Lola, rather than excluding, invites others into its warmth.
They met at a meeting of the Lutheran Students’ Association while Lola was in her first year at Western Washington University. Both shared a passion for social justice.
“My parents were wild radicals,” Lola says. “If there weren’t labor unions, they started them.”
They also share a Scandinavian heritage. Ernie’s ancestry is Swedish. Lola’s grandparents immigrated from Iceland in the early 1900s due to famine that threatened their existence. The plight of these early pioneers was the root of championing social justice issues that the family upholds to this today.
Their wedding took place in Bellingham in Lola’s family home. Sylvia Schonberg played the piano and Joan Linde sang the lord’s prayer. A honeymoon in Vancouver followed. Their first home together was in Bellingham, where they completed their university degrees. Within two years of marriage, two of their six children were born.
“If you get out of control at the beginning, things really multiply,” Lola observes with a wit that does not fail.
Ernie’s mother’s dream was that one of her sons would be called to ministry. After both Lola and Ernie earned their bachelor’s degrees at WWU, Ernie pursued his studies to become an ordained pastor in the Lutheran church. The young family moved frequently, including to Seattle and Minnesota, where Ernie attended seminary, and to Creston, B.C., where Ernie served as pastor in a Lutheran church.
Lola grew up in the yellow house at the corner of Benson Road and Tyee Drive in Point Roberts. Through all the moves, she held to her dream of “going home to Point Roberts,” where her parents, Jules and Laura Samuelson, had been part of the early Icelandic settlement.
The dream was realized in 1975 when she came home with Ernie and their daughters Robin, Dana, Valerie, Erica and Maddie, and their son, Carl. While working at Nielson’s Lumber, Ernie built the family home on Tyee Drive. In 1982, he became the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Community Church, and serves still, as pastor emeritus. Both Lola and Ernie have faithfully uplifted our community as mainstays of the church, supporters of the food bank, the library, and many other organizations. Each year, Ernie calls us to honor and understand the importance of Earth Day. Undergirding everything is their belief in what Lola names, “A radical cry for justice.”
Above all, their greatest joy is family.
“Every single birthday has been celebrated at this table,” Lola says, tapping the oak beneath her hand. With six children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, there is cause for celebration.
The candles are guttering and Lola, with her delightful candor, closes our conversation with this: “Living with someone is tough. Grit your teeth and bear it, then rejoice when times are good.”
The rejoicing will be great on August 23, 2020, the 70th wedding anniversary of Point Roberts’ much-loved couple.